Culture

It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Two of Latin America’s most important ingredients – staples of cuisines across the region – are in danger of possible extinction thanks to climate change. Tomatoes and chilies both make up a huge part of traditional recipes from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina to Cuba – and they’re close to disappearing from grocery stores everywhere.

We know that tomato and chili are two fundamental ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Due to the threats suffered by its main pollinator, the bumblebee, these basic ingredients could disappear forever.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet. But one of the most at-risk species is the humble bumble bee. These often feared insects are a vital source of pollination for thousands of plant and flower species around the world – if they disappear so too do the species of plants that depend on them.

Pollinators are species of great importance for a healthy environment. They are responsible for the the diversity and health of various biomes. Across Latin America, the bumble bee is largely responsible for the pollination of modern agriculture and this could have a major impact on the production of tomatoes and chilis.

Unfortunately, bumblebees are currently threatened, resulting in the possible extinction of different vegetables, including tomatoes and chili.

But why does the tiny bumble bee matter at all?

The bumble bee belongs to the insect family Apidae, which includes hundeds of different species of bumblebees. In fact, the bumble bee can be found on every continent except Antarctica and plays an outsized role in agriculture. The insects are often larger than honey bees, come in black and white varieties and often feature white, yellow, or orange stripes. This genus belongs to the Apidae family that includes different species commonly known as bumblebees. They’re almost entirely covered by very silky hairs. An adult bumblebee reaches 20 millimeters or more and feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants. A curious fact is that females have the ability to sting, while males do not.

Bumblebees are epic pollinators of the tomato and chili plantS. Together with different species, the bumblebee helps produce many staple foods that are part of healthy diets around the world. If these become extinct the eating habits of all Latinos would suffer drastic changes as several vegetables would disappear.

So why are bumblebees in danger?

The main threat of these insects is the pesticides used in modern agriculture. That is why it is necessary to avoid consuming food produced in this way. We can all help the bumblebee planting plants, protecting native species and especially not damaging their natural environment.

But climate change is also wreaking havoc on the breeding patters of bumblebees – leading to colony collapse. With fewer colonies there is less breeding and therefore fewer bees around the world to pollinate our global crops.

Can you imagine a world without tomatoes or chilies?

Salsa. Moles. Pico de gallo. Ketchup. Chiles rellenos. Picadillo. All of these iconic Latin American dishes would be in danger of going extinct along with the bumblebee – because what’s a mole without the rich, complex flavors of dried chilies?

Several groups are already working hard to help fund programs that would work to conserve the dwindling bumblebee populations. While others are working out solutions that could perhaps allow tomatoes and chilies to self-pollinate – much as other plants already do.

Fashion Is The Second Most Polluting Industry In The World —And It’s Turning To Food Waste To Cut Down On Emissions

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Fashion Is The Second Most Polluting Industry In The World —And It’s Turning To Food Waste To Cut Down On Emissions

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The world is in a dreadful mess if you haven’t noticed. And —surprise, surprise— a lot of it is caused by the fashion industry. Apparel and footwear production accounts for 8.1% of global greenhouse emissions —or as much as the total climate impact of the entire European Union. The current fast fashion “only wear it once” mentality is causing an unprecedented strain on the planet’s resources. And a few brands are taking note of the magnitude of the problem and see an opportunity. 

Both Fashion and the food industries are greatly responsible for an unprecedented strain on the planet’s resources.

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Analysts warn that the fashion market’s annual 5% growth is straining planetary resources “at an unprecedented level,” by raising production to more than 100 million tons by 2030. For those of us who don’t know, ’Fast Fashion’ can be defined as ‘the cheap, disposable clothing, made indiscriminately, imprudently and often without consideration for environmental and labor conditions’ by the companies we all love —like Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and Fashion Nova— it’s a disease and both the planet and the people are facing the consequences. 

Added on to the damage that fashion production causes, there’s the case of food production and waste. 

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Around the world, people eat around 100 billion bananas every year. That creates around 270 million tons of waste–from peels to stalks–which are often burned or left to rot. Crop burning pollutes the air, and rotting releases methane into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. But here’s where we have good news; a few masterminds of the sustainable fashion industry took into consideration the magnitude of this waste and saw an opportunity. 

Single-use plastics and discarded fishing nets were among the first materials to be recycled into luxury products, but now it’s food waste that’s getting the sustainable spin. 

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US designer Mara Hoffman crafts all her buttons from tree nuts, while Hugo Boss and Veja sell sneakers made from repurposed pineapple leaves and corn starch, and Italian start-up Orange Fiber makes silk from scraps of citrus peel which has been used for Salvatore Ferragamo’s slinky floral printed scarves and dresses. 

The true pioneer of sustainable —and luxury— fashion is Stella McCartney who launched her eponymous line in 2001. 

instagram @stellamccartney

As one of the industry’s most vocal champions of environmental issues, McCartney is a strong example of the commercial potential of sustainable, ethically minded businesses. Sustainability —and an ethical standpoint— shapes the company’s policies, its underlying business model and its brand message.

Stella McCartney opted out of using animal-derived materials such as leather, silk, wool, etc. for ethical reasons as well as for the environmental impact their production causes. 

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The environmentally conscious brand makes buttery vegan leathers out of mushrooms. For spring/summer 2019, McCartney offered gauzy vests and T-shirts crafted from vegan silk made from yeast, and leather trousers in earthy mustards and burgundy hues.

Food waste is definitely on-trend right now.

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The huge luxury conglomerate who owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Fendi —to name a few—LVMH, has teamed up with London charity Refettorio Felix for their ‘wine and spirits platform Clos19’ and host super fancy “supper clubs” where stellar chefs serve up three-course dinners using only waste produce — tickets cost £90, and each event sells out almost instantly. 

It’s a movement happening across different lifestyle categories from dining to beauty and fashion. “Food waste is definitely trending right now,” says Lisa Carolan, founder of the first waste-free wellness resort Our Retreat, in Sardinia; she introduced a waste-free policy after discovering that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually. 

The growing demand for natural skincare and plastic-free packaging has seen the beauty industry wake up to waste too.

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Earlier this year, The Body Shop unveiled a collection of cleansers and moisturizers crafted from organic, “ugly” carrots that are too crooked to be sold in supermarkets. UK beauty brand, Cowshed, makes its packaging from repurposed sugar cane while London-based brands UpCircle and MontaMonta have both partnered with coffee shops across the British capital to turn used coffee grounds into scrubs and serums that are sold at Cult Beauty and Liberty. 

Fashion brands will find that if they choose to use food waste, ‘The supply of material is plentiful.’ 

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Data proving that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually also predicts that the figure is expected to rise to 2.2 billion by 2025 —according to the United Nations. Other statistics say that one-third of the food grown or produced in the world is discarded. “The supply of material is plentiful,” says Tom Broughton, founder of London-based eyewear Cubitts and a pioneer in the design of sustainable eyewear. 

Cubitts produces opticals and sunglasses crafted from waste materials like corn husks and mushrooms. The specs even look like they’re made from wood, mais non, they’re made from corn starch. The brown finish is added from…wait for it… potatoes and coffee grounds. 

In recent years, as the fashion industry has started to acknowledge, and wake up to the impact it has on the planet —aka. being the second most polluting industry after oil production— sustainability has become a buzzword, and the only way out. It’s encouraging to see that brands are taking serious steps in innovation to mitigate their negative impact on the planet. And just as fashion brands and designers are opting to see the value in waste rather than the waste in it, consumers also need to take their share of responsibility and shop with awareness and ethics.

Pablo Escobar Once Had Four Pet Hippos, Now There’s More Than 80 And They’re Destroying Colombia’s Ecosystem

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Pablo Escobar Once Had Four Pet Hippos, Now There’s More Than 80 And They’re Destroying Colombia’s Ecosystem

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Pablo Escobar is known for many things, among them being one of the world’s most prolific drug lords. His Medellín cartel basically invented the modern-day drug business model – which continues to plague communities around the world.

However, there’s one part of Escobar’s life that few know about – the drug kingpin also had a menagerie of exotic animals that he kept as pets, including four giant African hippos.

The former drug lord‘s pet hippos have exploded in population and are wreaking havoc on the environment.

Escobar kept a large number of exotic animals – including lions, rare birds, giraffes, and hippos – as pets at his Medellin compound. When he was killed in 1993, most of the animals were moved to zoos, however, the hippos were left to fend for themselves. And apparently they’ve thrived on their own.

It was not possible to move the hippos and the animals soon lived near the Magdalena River. Their number has grown over the years and is now nearly 80. According to a study published in the journal Ecology, the hippos have become an invasive species and are destroying the aquatic ecosystem.

The region’s water supply is under threat thanks to hippo waste.

A team of researchers from the University of California at San Diego and the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia investigated the water quality of the lakes where hippos live, and compared them to lakes where they are not.

According to the study, hippos separate large amounts of waste into the lakes, changing the chemistry and oxygen levels of the water. This is because the excreted waste fertilizes harmful algae and bacteria.

According to Jonathan Shurin, lead author of the study, the hippos have a major impact on the ecosystem in their native Africa. He said a similar impact was seen when they were imported into an entirely new continent.

The Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was known for his love of exotic animals.

He was once the owner of a grand estate, Hacienda Nápoles, just under 100 miles east of Medellin. In the early 1980s, Escobar built an illegal zoo full of rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos on his estate.

After his death it was seized by the government and now acts as a safari theme park. Most of the exotic animals that he housed in the on site zoo were re-homed. Except the hippos. Now, scientists say, the four original hippos now number around 80 and are having a detrimental effect on Colombian waters. 

While some remain in the current theme park, some slipped through the flimsy gate and are now feral. 

Escobar bought the hippos from a zoo in California and flew them to his ranch in the early 1980s. Left to themselves on his Napoles Estate, they bred to become supposedly the biggest wild hippo herd outside Africa.

Escobar’s hippos have become feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and spreading into neighboring rivers – confounding the problem.

The crime lord’s hippos are also much more sexually active than their cousins in Africa because of the perfect conditions, shallow water and no drought. 

All the fertile females are reported to be giving birth to a calf every year, the BBC said in 2014. And this is a problem for the water, if not local farmers who risk their wrath while working.  

“If you plot out their population growth, we show that it tends to go exponentially skyward. In the next couple of decades there could be thousands of them,” according to Jonathan Shurin, of UCSD.